Guest post: AFFHO Congress

Guest contributor: Marie Hickey

Every three years AFFHO holds a congress and this year, the 12th one, was held at King’s College, Otahuhu, Auckland hosted by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) – the third time they have done so. 
 
This year 440 people attended the congress coming from such far flung places such as England, USA, Canada, Ireland and over 100 from Australia. The speakers were from New Zealand and abroad including such well-known personages as John Grenham, Michael Gandy, Chris Watts, Dick Eastman, Sherry Irvine and David Hey. They enlightened, educated and entertained us on a wide-ranging variety of subjects from how to make the best of particular records to forthcoming material available through commercial providers such as FamilySearch and Ancestry.com, digitisation projects and conservation.
 
Each day began with a plenary talk from 8.30-9.30am (no lying in bed late for us), however, the plenary talk which stood out for me was that given on Sunday morning by Elaine Collins, Commercial Director of findmypast.com about the newly released1911 census. Elaine was unable to attend in person so, instead, spoke to us via satellite. The index is currently available free of charge at: www.1911census.co.uk (it will later move to findmypast.com) but transcriptions and viewing of the original entries are pay per view. The project is currently 83% complete with Wales, parts of Yorkshire and some northern England counties still be added. One of the new pieces of data available with this census is that it includes how long a couple have been married.
 
While our days were full with the more serious side of research our evenings after dinner was more relaxed with visits to the NZSG Research Centre at Panmure, films from the NZ Film Archive, light-hearted talks and Speed Genealogy. The latter was an opportunity for attendees to spend 10 minutes discussing research problems on a one to one basis with one of the international or NZ experts.
 
Many old friendships were renewed and new ones forged as well as information shared along with plenty of light-hearted banter and laughter. At the banquet on Monday night Michael Gandy regaled us with quips and songs about life from a cockney perspective which had many of us singing along with him.
 
Karen, Bridget, Paul and I attended talks and seminars, answered queries from all and sundry, caught up with other exhibitors and old friends and generally had a thoroughly good time. We launched the Lock-in for 19 September 2009 at the Congress and already have five paid for bookings. 
 
The convening committee are to be congratulated on providing a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening time.

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